Drake’s Take: New Releases 01.29.08

This week Drake tries to live up to his own to his hype, will he succeed? Read on to find out. -ed.

On a less cryptic and more personal note, this week features two releases (mentioned below but not reviewed) that I’m personally kind of excited about, and those are from Thao Nguyen and Yoav. If time permits (and she is a cruel mistress), perhaps I’ll add my own “take” to the mix.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 01.29.08

This week sees the release two seemingly disparate albums influenced by Africa. One by the most hyped indie acts in some time, as Vampire Weekend release their self-titled debut of wholly likable afro-pop. At the other end of the spectrum is the prog-rock assault of The Mars Volta, who’s latest is far less agreeable, for both good and bad. Meanwhile, there’s other gems in the stream to mine, with new releases from The Helio Sequence, Radar Bros., Xiu Xiu, Ida, Louis XIV and Robert Pollard.

Playlist: New Releases 01.29.07

Album: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend - Vampire WeekendInfinitely hyped, Vampire Weekend meets the iPressure head on with this instantly likable debut, full of hummable songs that’s hard to take off repeat. They don’t take too many chances with their formula, even starting the album with four songs that much of the hype is based on, from their EP and advance single, basically just cleaning up the songs a bit in mastering. From there, the album is filled out nicely with more great afro-pop songwriting. The afro-pop of Vampire Weekend brings to mind Paul Simon’s Graceland, but it’s definitely not a world music. The most overt African song should end up as their biggest single, in “Cap Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” which cleverly name-checks both Peter Gabriel and Benetton, both iconic symbols associated with West-meets-African chic. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, and no one is going to confuse it as important music, but it is a fun and enjoyable release that at least negotiates a nice handshake from the aggressive hype that surrounds it.

Stream “Oxford Comma” and “M79” from vampireweekend.com

Album: The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in GoliathIf Vampire Weekend works the fun side of African sounds, The Bedlam in Goliath incorporates the dark and the voodoo, mashing them and throwing them into the already busy prog-rock mix until it’s unrecognizable aside from the revved up polyrhythmic drums and song titles like blazing opener “Aberinkula” and slowburning “Agadez.” Just looking at the number of tracks and song lengths, you can quickly tell that this isn’t going to be the ridiculous excess of 2006’s Amputechture, and that assumption is spot on. Bedlam brings The Mars Volta back into the focus of their first two releases, while still expanding their sound. Lead single “Wax Simulacra” packs in it’s 2 1/2 minutes everything that’s right about the band, never allowing itself to drift off into self-indulgence. There are some misteps (like the unnecessarily long “Cavalettas” and the drag of the following two tracks,) but it’s a worthy return for the band back into form.

Album: The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes AheadThe Portland duo shed some of the My Bloody Valentine references here with a more stripped down affair. As a result, Keep Your Eyes Ahead feels more urgent, more earnest… and part of that is due to Brandon Summers’ necessary rehabilitation of his voice, the instrument that had recently failed him and put Helio Sequence‘s future in jeopardy — hence the four year absence. Gone are Summers’ yelps and screams from 2004’s uneven Love and Distance — which help damage his vocal chords while touring — and in it’s place a more plaintive, folky singing style, which compliments a more diverse musical backdrop nicely. It’s a fine rebirth for a band that we’d nearly lost — from a scream to a whisper.

Download: “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” [mp3]

More on the radar this week
Radar Bros – Auditorium / Free album stream from AOL
Xiu Xiu – Women as Lovers
Louis XIV – Slick Dogs And Ponies
Robert Pollard – Superman Was a Rocker
Ida – Lovers Prayers
Dub Trio – Another Sound Is Dying
Joe Jackson – Rain / Free album stream from AOL / “Invisible Man” [mp3]
This Will Destroy You – This Will Destroy You
Quinn Walker – Laughter’s An Asshole/Lion Land
Shelby Lynne – Just a Little Lovin’
Yoav – Charmed And Strange
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Down In New Orleans
Thao Nguyen – We Brave Bee Stings and All
Human Bell – Human Bell
Willie Nelson – Moment of Forever
SSM – Break Your Arm For Evolution